The Tampa Bay Lightning looked well on their way to winning their fifth-consecutive game when the third period started against the Ottawa Senators Saturday night.
The Lightning spotted Ottawa a two-goal lead in the first period then methodically clawed their way back in the game, taking the lead at 9:15 of the second period on Braydon Coburn's third goal of the season and pulling in front by two goals on Mathieu Joseph's second goal of the night at 14:32.
"We had control of the game," Joseph said.
Unfortunately, nobody told Ottawa.
The Senators gave the Lightning cause for concern when they scored just :50 seconds into the final period. They made the 19,092 inside AMALIE Arena squirm in their seats when Colin White leveled the score on a power play with a little more than 11 minutes to go. And they shocked both the Lightning players and their fans when they took the lead at 10:30 of the third.
"It's a tough loss," Joseph said.
A comfortable lead for the Lightning against a middle-of-the-pack team turned into a demoralizing loss in stunning fashion.
How did it get to that point?
Three Things from a bitter loss for the Lightning to swallow.
Video: Jon Cooper on the loss to Ottawa
1. SLIPPING AWAY
Saturday's last-period collapse was eerily reminiscent of an early season home loss to the Vancouver Canucks in the second game of the season.
In both games, the Lightning held a lead going into the third period but were thoroughly outplayed over the final 20 minutes and suffered defeat.
Also, in both instances, the Bolts surrendered four goals in the final period, the most goals they've allowed in a period this season.
The real turning point in the game Saturday versus Ottawa was Tkachuk's goal with not even a minute elapsed off the third period clock. The Lightning were feeling pretty good about themselves, in complete control of the game and in search of that dagger goal that would put the game out of reach.
Instead, Tkachuk was credited with a goal on a scramble play in front of the net, one in which the Senators outworked and outhustled the Lightning to score. The sudden turn of events put the Lightning on their heels and gave life to the Senators.
"When we're up two goals going into the third, we have to be better," Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. "We have to have a better start and go from there."
Ottawa's game-tying goal came just as suddenly. The Senators were awarded a power play after Mathieu Joseph sent a puck over the glass from his own end for a delay of game call. Just four seconds into the man-advantage, Colin White found the back of the net to tie the game.
"I took a penalty there into the stands, and it changed the momentum of the game," Joseph lamented. "Something I can't do in 4-3 games. It's bad by me and they took advantage and after that we just couldn't recoup."
The go-ahead was produced by a fantastic shot from Ryan Dzingel on an odd-man rush for the Senators.
"It was just kind of the perfect storm against us," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Everything they shot, it went in."
Video: OTT@TBL: Joseph pots second to pad lead
2. JUST REWARD FOR JOSEPH
Through the first 13 games of his NHL career, Mathieu Joseph was snakebitten when it came to scoring a goal, the rookie forward making an impact pretty much every time he took the ice and in every area of the game but unable to put a puck in the back of the net.
Joseph wiped away games of frustration last Sunday when he finally got on the scoreboard in a victory at Ottawa.
Now, it seems Joseph can do nothing but score.
After netting his first home goal in a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday, Joseph added two more to his goal tally in Saturday's loss to Ottawa, giving him four on the season.
Three of his four goals have come against Ottawa.
All four have come in the last four games.
"I told him, 'It's just a matter of time when you keep creating those (good scoring chances),'" Killorn said.
Joseph's first goal Saturday night came in the first period with the Lightning trailing 2-0, the second time in two games against Ottawa this season the Bolts have fallen behind 2-0 to the Senators in the opening period. Joseph took the puck behind the Ottawa net and wheeled around to the edge of the right circle near the wall, where he unleashed a shot that deflected off the skate of Senators defenseman Thomas Chabot and skittered past Craig Anderson for the Bolts' first goal.
In the second period with the Lightning now in front 3-2, Joseph extended Tampa Bay's lead when he got the puck from Killorn on the cycle and snapped a shot from the edge of the right circle, a confident shot that goes in when you're as hot as Joseph is right now.
Joseph recorded his first career two-goal game Saturday. He also added an assist for a three-point night.
"My thing with that is if you're doing all the right things and getting chances and chances and chances, eventually they're going to go in," Cooper said. "There were probably plays that should have went into the net and didn't, and then all of a sudden plays that maybe shouldn't go into the net do. That's just the way it works, and this was one of those nights. And other times when he is plugging away and gets some, he got rewarded tonight. If you're going to keep putting yourself in the right position, good things are going to happen and that's what he's doing."
Video: OTT@TBL: Hedman goes coast to coast to score PPG
3. HEDDY RETURNS
The Lightning were dealt a blow to the lineup when defenseman Anton Stralman and forward Adam Erne were unable to go Saturday night because of upper-body injuries.
Both Stralman and Erne are day-to-day, although after the game Cooper was asked if there was any concern either could be out more than a week.
"Hope not," was the coach's reply.
With those two missing, the return of Victor Hedman to the lineup became even more important for the Lightning and particularly its blueline. Hedman was sidelined the previous seven games after sustaining an upper-body injury in a 3-2 win October 26 at Vegas.
Against Ottawa, Hedman finished second on the team for time on ice at 22:23. And he produced a highlight-reel goal just to show there was no rust from the lengthy layoff.
On an early second period power play, Hedman took possession of the puck behind his own net after a handoff from Vasilevskiy, started up the ice with considerable speed, saw an opening in the Sens' penalty kill alignment, split a pair of defenders on his way into the offensive zone and got off a shot that beat Anderson five hole.
"You've just got to take what's there," Hedman said. "I felt like the legs were good, and you find an opening and maybe got a little lucky on the shot. It's a good feeling, play a good second period, but we've got to do a better job closing out the game."
The Lightning were able to maintain their torrid start to the season even with their Norris Trophy defensemen on the shelf, going 5-2-0 in his absence.
Now, with Stralman and Erne out for who knows how long, Hedman becomes an even more vital piece to the Lightning lineup.